He knows it can’t happen — too many big names in the field, not enough money or experience in Tony the Tiger’s corner — but he senses something there. Something the Snowman’s got that no one else on the Republican landscape, with the possible exception of Newt, has right now.

Magic.

[T]his wasn’t a videotape of Ronald Reagan that I was watching. It was White House press secretary Tony Snow, speaking live to the closing luncheon of the National Review Institute’s “Conservative Summit.”…

Throughout the entire speech and Q&A afterward, Snow held the whole audience spellbound. As soon as he was done, one lady at my table leaned over to me and said: “Now he’s the one who should be running for president next time around.”

If the current primary system, with its emphasis on crazily early money and early organizing, weren’t so outlandish, the idea actually makes at least some sense.

The fact is that conservatives have been desperately searching for a champion who knows how to communicate, how to engage and inspire the public, ever since Reagan left the scene. What has been missing in the interim is not merely some acquired skill or a trick of communicating, but a communications talent that is married to a genuine, heartfelt, long-developed set of beliefs. It’s the marriage of communication with philosophy that is needed; one without the other won’t do. Snow is clearly genuine: Never having needed to troll for votes, he has for decades spoken for himself, not to pander to any interest group or do well in any poll.

Even before I got to the end of Hillyer’s column, I was thinking of Warner’s Senate seat in Virginia. He’s up for re-election in 2009, he’ll turn 80 next month, and Snow’s lived there for years. Two problems, though: the state is trending blue and he’s not a native son. He is native to Kentucky (born) and Ohio (raised), each of which will have a Senate race in 2011 (Snow will be 56 at the time), but the latter’s a bad bet. It’s also trending blue and Voinovich will “only” be 75 at the time. But Kentucky? Jim Bunning will be 80 and has been rumored for years to be senile/senile-ish. Both seats are presently held by Republicans, the other belonging to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who’d naturally campaign on the Snowman’s behalf. Plus, Kentucky would give him some southern cred to balance his Ohio pedigree in case he considers a national run later.

He’s got the taint of Bush on him now, but that’ll fade in time. And didn’t the left make a big deal back when he was named press secretary about how often he’d criticized the president’s policies in print? Bush even made a joke about it when introducing him to the press corps:

Come 2009, he moves to Lexington and declares that he needs to “embrace my roots,” makes some friends, does some fundraisers, and he’s set. Money.